Love builds up what war tears down in Since You Went Away by writer/producer David O. Selznick and director John Cromwell. Stanley Cortez and Lee Garmes; Hal C. Kern; and Max Steiner handle cinematography, editing, and music. Filming showcases California.
The 172-minute home-front epic adapts Margaret Buell Wilder’s (1904-1992) 1943-published, same-named novel. Its distributor was United Artists. Its LA-premiere and USA-release dates were June and July 20, 1944.
The movie begins with Anne Hilton (Claudette Colbert) seeing advertising executive/husband Tim off to war. Anne keeps afloat by:
- Getting credit from grocer Mahoney (Lloyd Corrigan), whose son Johnny (Jackie Moran) Tim will help in post-war employment;
- Having Fidelia (Hattie McDaniel) as live-in housekeeper;
- Renting bedrooms to retired Colonel William G. Smollett (Monty Woolley) and to friend/illustrator/Lieutenant Tony Willett (Joseph Cotten).
- She manages to afford extras, such as meeting divorced friend Emily Hawkins (Agnes Moorhead) in a bar.
Emily holds a serviceman’s dance. Anne’s daughter Jane (Jennifer Jones) is co-hostess. Johnny, Tony, and Corporal William G. Smollett II (Robert Walker) show up.
Everyone mourns Johnny’s death during a training flight accident and Tony’s re-assignment. Tony offers Fidelia a sketched portrait as thank-you gift. Jane regrets being quarantined with mumps.
Bill and Jane go bowling and help sailor Harold Smith (Guy Madison) meet his bus. Grandfather William is hostile to the lovebirds. He views Bill as a loser disgracing Smollett military achievements by his West Point expulsion.
Jane’s defending Bill angers William. Her preferring employment to education upsets Anne. Everyone nevertheless welcomes Jane’s high school graduation.
Everyone anticipates meeting Tim when he changes trains at the station. Trains are delayed. Anne, Jane and daughter Brigid (Shirley Temple) miss Tim’s train. They talk with a passenger (Adeline DeWalt Reynolds) whose granddaughter goes missing at the Battle of Corregidor (Philippines, May 5-6, 1942).
Anne approves Jane’s summer work at the hospital. She deplores:
Bill enjoys his last day with Jane by:
Missing Bill’s train and Bill’s dying in battle torment William.
Emily becomes jealous of Tony’s attentions to Jane on William’s birthday. She criticizes Jane’s performance helping nurses. Her criticisms inspire Anne to patriotism as a shipyard welder. Anne likes her factory co-workers’ appreciation for Ellis and Liberty Islands.
The movie ends with:
Jane giving William Bill’s watch;
Fidelia laying out Tim’s last gifts;
Anne listening to “We’ll Always Be Together” on Tim’s music box and receiving telephoned news of Tim’s imminent return.